Juggling the multiple voices in our heads

In Part 1 of our interview with  Peak Season narrator Pamela Almand, she talked about how a career in flying helped her second career as a narrator take off. In Part 2 she hones in on the joys and trials of audiobook narration. Pam and I talked about her career and her company, The Captain’s Voice, via email in late October.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

I’ve always loved suspense and thrillers. Dave Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Vince Flynn, Grisham, Brad Thor. . . . Unfortunately, male suspense authors don’t often use female narrators unless, like in Peak Season, their protagonist is a woman. I love the opportunity to narrate strong female protagonists like CW McCoy. That is where my strengths and deeper voice can really shine, and I love books where I get to add a touch of sarcasm or sassiness to the character.

I also really enjoy non-fiction from Thomas Sowell, Bill Bryson, Charles Krauthammer and others, but don’t have a lot of time to read them. I’d love to narrate any of their books, though, and that is where a lot of documentary and e-learning work helps me. The non-fiction author has a purpose and motive for writing and my job is to capture his or her passion and enthusiasm for their subject matter. And I’d love to narrate Ann Coulter. Although I don’t always agree with her, I love the combination of dry wit, snarkiness and intelligence with which she writes.

Pam Almand recordingDo you have a favorite book or project?

That’s the toughest question yet, Jeff. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed just about all my projects as new and interesting learning opportunities, with the possible exception of a very dry, 10-hour narration on rules and regs on the handling of toxic chemicals (but it paid very, very well, so I’m not complaining.)

Which characters are your favorites to play?

Strong female protagonists with many facets to their emotions and personalities . . . and I always enjoy doing over-the-top characters where I can play with crazy accents and dialects.

How do you prepare to perform an audio piece?

Since I love to read, and read fairly fast, many times I’ll have read a book in its entirety before I decide whether to audition for it. If not, I’ll read the book and annotate it at the same time; each character has a distinctive voice, and many times you don’t find out details about it when the character’s first introduced. Halfway through the book, there might be a note that “the slight hint of her German background was obvious when she shouted at him” or “that morning his high whiny voice just drove her nuts.”

I’ll also practice a particular voice I want to use for a character and record a sentence or two for reference and make a separate audio file for each character who doesn’t appear regularly.

Then I jump into the studio and start telling the story, to myself more than the listener.

When you’re narrating a work with multiple characters, how do differentiate among them?

I mark them with individual highlight colors and notations on characteristics I need to know and I kinda try to feel out each major character in different emotions in the voice I’ve chosen for them, if that makes any sense.

And I don’t try to sound just like a man but only to suggest the difference through a bit of gravel perhaps, a flatter delivery, maybe a more resonant delivery. One of the best things I heard from Pat Fraley in a coaching session was that men don’t all have low voices, women don’t all have high voices. Duh. It seems obvious but it’s a common misinterpretation. Pat is a great coach for the sheer number of distinct sounds he can produce from that smiling mouth of his.

What new and exciting projects do you have coming up?

The release of Peak Season in audiobook is the most exciting right now. Lots of marketing and promo for that and a couple of other audiobooks. And I have a documentary piece coming up for a Christian non-profit on sex trafficking as well as a United Nations video directed by a wonderful client in Barcelona. And then the usual smattering of other work that comes up in a normal week.

And, of course, I’m eagerly awaiting CW McCoy’s newest adventures. I love this woman and love getting to live her life vicariously narrating your novels.

All the news that’s fit to break

Fans of “The Office” will enjoy the mockumentary format of the new book trailer for Peak Season, which came out in audio last week.

Breaking News 'Peak Season' trailer.jpgIn a tongue-in-cheek takeoff of shows like “Entertainment Tonight,” the broadcaster casts the debut of the CW McCoy crime series as breaking news, giving it the proper gravitas, with a bit of wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Here’s the video. (You can also watch it on YouTube.) Enjoy the show.

 

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‘Peak Season’ goes video

It’s the latest rage: just as movies have trailers, books do, too. Here’s the video with voice-over for Peak Season, the first of the CW McCoy crime novels. Is it under the bar, over the top or does it hit the Goldilocks spot . . . just right?

Watch it here or visit my site on YouTube.

[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/natgvgPWsO4″ align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no”]

 

Traffic stops: the good, the bad, the nightmare

It was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. Two Middlefield, Ohio police officers pull over a Saturn sedan for running a stop sign in March of 2013. In the video, the sky’s a typical washed-out winter blue. Cars keep rolling down the street as if nothing’s happening in this town of 2,700, located 45 miles due east of Cleveland.

Suddenly the driver opens his door and unleashes 37 rounds from an AK-47. The patrol car’s windshield splinters. Smoke drifts across the dash-cam as the officers return fire. “Kill me!” the man shouts and collapses in the street.

Police had pulled the driver over for a simple moving violation. The stop turned into an armed attack that resulted in the death of the driver and the injury of both officers.

Most traffic stops don’t end like that one but the danger exists–witness the killing of two officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on May 9. So does the legal hazard of police violating a citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to protection from illegal search and seizure. For the Sarasota Police Department, where three officers face investigation after a man pulled over for a moving violation died, traffic stops are anything but routine.

Officers Helios Blanco and John Vanik show the Middlefield video to members of the SPD Citizens Academy to make a point: that when it comes to traffic stops, the operative word is safety. Police must protect themselves when approaching a vehicle. Drivers should keep that in mind when evaluating an officer’s behavior . . . and their own.

Danger all around
There are three types of traffic stops: routine; redirect, where the stop becomes a criminal investigation; and pretext, where police use a legitimate traffic violation for a closer look at the suspect. Call them the good, the bad and the really ugly, the Middlefield shooter the poster child for the latter.

“Every traffic stop is different—the person, the weather, the location,” says Vanik, a patrol division officer who specializes in DUI checks. “When I stop a car, I don’t know who’s in the car, their race, their nationality, even after I run the tag and make contact. Everybody has tinted windows and when it’s two in the morning and it’s a dark street, I can’t even tell if there’s a person in the car.”

An officer’s first step is to determine the number of occupants and whether they are moving in an effort to hide guns or conceal drugs. After that, police look for signs of trouble. “Bumper stickers are a giveaway. NRA stickers tell me there’s a gun in car. Stickers like ‘I hate government’ and ‘I hate police’ . . . tell me how they feel.

“Most of the time,” Vanik says, “people are polite to us.” Still, he and other officers park so they can shine headlights on the suspect’s car and use theirs as a shield. They will order suspects out of the vehicle and have them walk backwards. They will stand where a shooter would not expect to find them.

“Always, keep eyes on,” says Blanco, a gang officer and Spanish-speaking translator. “Those few seconds can make the difference between me going home or going to the morgue.”

Proceed with caution
Since 52% of all encounters with police occur during traffic stops, SPD offers this advice:

  • When you notice lights behind you, pull your vehicle to the curb and stay stopped.
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel until the officer approaches.
  • Provide your license, registration and proof of insurance.
  • The officer will tell you the reason for the stop.
  • Back in the patrol car, the officer will check DMV records to determine if the vehicle is stolen or if the driver is on inmate release.
  • The officer will say whether you will receive a citation or a warning.

If the officer smells something coming from the car, he or she may have probable cause to search the vehicle. “The window is down,” Blanco says. “I get an odor. It’s not Febreze. If it’s marijuana, we have probable cause to search.”

Not so with alcohol. Vanik says police need at least two behavioral cues to conduct a field sobriety test, such as the smell of alcohol and slurred speech.

Regardless of whether the stop results in a warning or something more serious, the encounter is usually stressful for everyone.

“I never say ‘have a nice day,’” Blanco says. “I say, ‘take care.’”

Good advice . . . for all concerned.

Next: marine patrol and drug awareness.

Jeff Widmer is the author of The Spirit of Swiftwater and other works.

 

Media extend reach through expanded tweets

Starting this week you can read snippets of articles or watch moments from TV shows like BET’s 106 & Park, all from inside a tweet, as the world’s leading micro-blogger attempts to monetize its service.

In a blog post Twitter said it is expanding the offering to help users discover new content. Chances are good that the goal is to expand the reach of media partners into the Twitterverse in a way that’s less intrusive than advertising. Twitter augmented the initiative with partners like Lifetime, Dailymotion, The New York Times, Der Spiegel online and audio provider Soundcloud. Twitter did not disclose details of compensation by its media partners.

When users expand a tweet containing a news article they’ll see a headline, introduction and sometimes the Twitter accounts of the publisher and writer. The feature basically works as a preview function similar to that found on Google search pages. Users can then read the article, follow the account, reply, favorite or retweet.

Twitter had offered expanded tweets from YouTube and Instagram. This week’s announcement brings bigger media players into the picture. Or the tweet.

— Jeff Widmer

The business end of social media

What’s the hottest trend in social media and how can we jump on it? If your marketing team is investing in this brave new world, those are the wrong questions to ask. That according to Jay Baer, a social media speaker, author, consultant and co-author of The NOW Revolution.

During a webinar this week Baer listed the right and wrong questions agencies ask about social media. I’m not going to spoil an entrepreneur’s work by divulging all eight but three may convince you that Baer knows whereof he speaks.

  • What is the best way to get Facebook “likes” and Twitter follows? A better question is, How can we encourage existing fans to take action in social media?
  • How can we create a killer social media campaign that gets noticed? A better question is, How can we develop a sustained, ongoing social strategy that turns customers into advocates over the long run?
  • How can we make a viral video that gets thousands of views? A better question: How can we optimize a video so our customers can find it?

His bottom line when marketing via social media? The advice you live by in all of your business dealings: Strive to be helpful.

Invisible PR

Mercedes is taking its marketing on the road. The luxury carmaker plastered the side of its new F-Cell car with LEDs and mounted a camera on the other side. It then streamed video of its surroundings to the display, turning the car into a chameleon, virtually invisible except for the wheels.

Mercedes toured Germany to promote its zero-emissions hydrogen fueled model. Judging from the video the stunt gathered a lot of attention, especially from onlookers who mugged for the camera, and a few minutes of video fame.

All things video

More than half of all adults in the United States have used the internet to watch or download video. That from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, run by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

The most popular content? Comedy or humorous videos, rising in viewership from 31% of adult internet users in 2007 to 50% of adult internet users in the current survey. Educational videos ranked second, rising from 22% to 38%. In last place were political videos, although their doubling in viewership from 15% to 30% signals yet another shift in engagement and content delivery.

The report is based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between June 18-21, 2009 among a dual-frame (cell and landline) sample of 1,005 adults, 18 and older.

While marketers have plotted this growth for years, traditional media have recently seen the light, with newspapers and other outlets charging their reporters with carting video-capable cameras along with their notepads. The newest wrinkle in that trend comes by way of National Public Radio, which shows that it, too, has the chops to survive in this brave new world.

Prior to an interview at the All Things Digital conference, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller provided a humorous glimpse at NPR personalities trying out new digital technologies. After a passionate introduction by Schiller, the co-hosts of All Things Considered, Robert Siegel and Michele Norris, are transformed through the magic of stutter edit into urban hipsters.

Max Headroom would be proud.

max_headroom sunglasses

Amazing grace . . . with a digital twist

American conductor Eric Whitacre spliced nearly 250 submitted videos to form an online choir performing his composition “Lux Aurumque,” then posted the assembled piece on YouTube. Whitacre conducts his virtual choir from a window in the center of the screen while hundreds of faces float in space beneath stage lights. The result is remarkable. The music is beautiful, reminiscent of Gorecki’s “Third Symphony.” And the project itself is audacious, a stunning example of how creatives can merge art and marketing into something remarkable.